It's a double-bogey April with this second biography of Humphrey Bogart to appear this year, the 40th anniversary of the actor's death. Before her own death in 1994, biographer Sperber (Murrow) collected a ""quarter ton of research"" on the star, complied from 200 interviews with those who knew him (including John Huston, Katharine Hepburn and director Richard Brooks) and from her work in the Warner Bros. archives at USC. Her rough draft of the book was completed by Lax (Woody Allen). The result is a longer and much more detailed account of Bogart's life than can be found in the Meyers, gracefully written and somewhat savvier about the film business than Meyers's account. Thanks to Sperber's exhaustive research and Lax's own expertise in film history, the book gives a full and especially harrowing account of Bogart's political activities during the Hollywood red scare of the early fifties. Bogart was unusually brave to begin with, standing up to HUAC with several other stars (Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly), but then was bullied by his studio into backing down and recanting his earlier position. There are also full and entertaining accounts of the production histories of Bogart's major films. Still, both biographies are more or less equally insightful, presenting fundamentally the same portrait of the man himself: sensitive and often melancholy, with a bitter wit and a bit of a cruel streak, but courageous in his way, a hard-working and generous professional with an extraordinary screen presence. The reader's choice between these two fine biographies is liable to come down to just how much detail one wants to know about Humphrey Bogart. The Sperber/Lax includes a listing of Bogart's Broadway performances, an exhaustive filmography and 40 b&w photos, not seen by PW. Author tour. (Apr).
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997 Release date: 04/01/1997 Genre: Nonfiction